Monday, October 5, 2009

Stand By Your Man

A few days ago when I was skimming www.foxnews.com, something I do several times a day if I can, I came across a rather interesting article that I'd like to share with you, my readers. Here's the link if you want to read it: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,559360,00.html.
The article is about the political wives who've stood by their men when their men have been caught cheating on them, whether it be with other women or other men. The interesting thing about this article is that all these wives are portrayed as "good wives" for standing by their men. Most of these women (I can't say all, since I don't know the whole story for some of them) are, in my opinion, weak-willed women who have become doormats. Now, you might be surprised that I'd say that. Didn't these women do the right thing in standing by their man when he was caught cheating? Weren't they right to forgive and forget? Shouldn't they be heralded for having the strength to stick it out through the tough times? The short answers are: no, yes, and no.
Now, before you get the wrong idea about me, I completely disagree with divorce in every single case except marital unfaithfulness (which is the only instance where God allows it). Divorce is always always always wrong except when one or the other spouse is caught cheating. Okay, I think I've made myself clear on divorce. So, because these men were caught cheating, am I saying that these women should have divorced them? That is one question I can't answer. However, the point I'm trying to get to is this: standing by your man (or woman, if your wife is caught cheating) is not always a good thing, is not always the right thing and, in many cases, can make the situation worse. If I could sit down and talk to these women, I'd ask them one question. Where's the consequences for your husband's actions? These men cheated. In God's eyes, these wives would be justified in divorcing their husbands. If they decide to stay and try to work it out, that's their decision and it's neither wrong nor right. However, there still needs to be consequences. Where was the phone call where the wife tells her husband that his belongings are out on the front lawn and he isn't allowed back home until he's ready to fix this and promise that it'll never happen again? From a political point of view, these men regretted what they did - most of them had to resign whatever office they were holding and were disgraced in the public eye. But that's just humiliation and can be forgotten. (And public humiliation evidently isn't a good deterrent because men keep on getting caught cheating and have to resign). Now that these men don't hold political office anymore, they don't have to worry about public humiliation. So what's stopping them from cheating again? Why did they do it in the first place? Somewhere along the line, they crossed a line in their head that said they could cheat on their wife. How did that happen? Does the wife, perhaps, hold some responsibility in the matter? (And no, it's never the other spouse's fault when the first spouse cheats, but they still can hold some responsibility). If these men knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their belongings would be out on the front lawn and they wouldn't be allowed back home if they were caught cheating, would these men still have cheated? I don't know. What I do know is, their belongings weren't out on the front lawn. In some cases, their wives covered for them. If these husbands cheated again, they know their wives would still be there for them, supporting them, covering for them. So where's the deterrent? What's stopping them from cheating again? (In the case of John Edwards, he's still seeing his mistress. The whole standing by your man thing didn't do a lot of good, now did it? Maybe if she'd had some consequences for him at the time, she could've either saved their marriage or ended the agony at that point.)
If my husband knew that he could cheat and I'd still be here for him and there'd be no consequences, there's a much better chance that he'd cheat. However, he knows that if he cheats, he'll lose his family. So even if he weren't an honorable man (which he is), that, in and of itself, would be a good deterrent. It takes a pretty morally-corrupt man to cheat when he knows he'll be kicked out of his house and lose his family. (I don't like using my husband as an example here, because I know he'd never cheat on me. However, I can't use any other husband as an example since he's the only one that I've got :))
For those wives, strength is not standing by your man, no matter what. Strength is telling your man: "ya know what? You cheated on me. You broke your vows to me and to God. We're going to be separated for the next six months as I work through the pain and betrayal. During that time, I'll decide if I'm willing to stay with you or if I'm going to divorce you." These men obviously don't value their wives and families. Maybe when they're faced with the possibility of losing it all, it'll knock some sense into them.
Why is it that, in the marriage relationship, consequences are seen as a bad thing and in every other relationship, are seen as a good thing? Your pet makes a mess on the carpet right in front of you, he gets a spank. Your child steals from the store, he gets grounded. You steal from the store, you're thrown in jail. You sin, God punishes you. Why is it that, when an egregious offense is committed in marriage, there's no consequences? It doesn't make sense.
One last thing - forgiveness is not an option. You have to forgive your husband or wife, no matter what.
Tough love is not easy but it is necessary.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with much of what you said. However, I think we need to remember that God does not WANT couples to divorce for any reason . . not even unfaithfulness. What God does want is for an offending party to realize what they have done, repent, and do all that is necessary to repair and restore the relationship. Only if the offending party will not repent does God allow divorce. I do agree that no wife should "stand by their" man if he is not repenting of the unfaithfulness. But she MUST stand by him, forgive, and work on restoration if he repents of the unfaithfulness.
    There are other possible areas that I believe are equally (or more) severe . . physical abuse and pornography. These are both non-negotiable offenses and immediate action must be taken if either situation occurs. A woman MUST immediately leave her husband (or get a restraining order against him) if he EVER physically abuses her (even a "simple" slap) or their children. Divorce, I believe, would be accepted by God in a case of a physical abuser who does not repent. Additionally, continued pornography would also be an area that would justify divorce. After all . . what is the definition of unfaithfulness - unfaithfulness could be defined as consciously disregarding the marriage promises - physical abuse and pornography use would both come under that definition.

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  2. Pam, I think you nailed it. The prophet says that God says, "I hate divorce." He leaves no room for God NOT hating divorce for unfaithfulness. Remember Israel was unfaithful time after time and God never totally and completely gave up on them. The prophets even compared Israel's relationship with God to an unfaithful spouse (see Hosea as an example).
    I think the key is, regardless which party is the offender, repentance and restoration. Yes, God allowed Israel to bear the consequences of her unfaithfulness...that's the way it should be. But He also was willing to restore the relationship, just as He is with each of us today as we struggle, fail, repent, and ask fogiveness.
    We have a wonderful, patient, and forgiving God!

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  3. I would just like to comment that I hope my husband is faithful to me for a more noble reason than because I will "punish" him if he strays. If the only reason he stays with me is because he's afraid I'll leave him if he doesn't-what kind of relationship is that? I'd much rather he stay with me because he loves and respects me, and wants to do the right thing. When I look at why I've been faithful for 33 years, it's not because I'm afraid he'll leave me if I'm not. It's because I respect him far too much to ever hurt him like that, whether he'd ever find out or not. The question is, if you could cheat and no one would ever know, would you? That hypothetical question removes all consequences and leaves it a purely moral dilemma. Would you still make the right choice without that fear of punishment? In a survey taken not too long ago, far too many people said they would. I do not advocate manipulating the behavior of people around me by using fear of consequences-I'd much rather have their respect.

    Secondly, in my opinion, just because a wife is not willing to boot her husband out the door for unfaithfulness does not mean she isn't strong. It takes more guts, grace, and maturity to forgive somebody and work through it all than it ever does to get rid of the person and the problem. Unfaithfulness is not the unforgiveable sin.

    Lastly, there are other valid reasons for divorce other than unfaithfulness (to me, pornography would fall into this category). Pam certainly brought that out well when she discussed spousal and child abuse. I would never ever advise someone to stay in a marriage if there was emotional or physical abuse.

    Just as Jesus looked beyond the sin of murder to hatred, and beyond the sin of adultry to lust, I think Scripture would allow divorce for abandonment or for anything that would break the spirit of the covenant-for example, I would not advocate that a woman stay with a man who is using all of the money in the household to support a drug habit. She must save herself and her children if there are any and either get out of that environment or boot him out so that they will be safe. He must choose which is most important to him, and then she will know what decision she needs to make. He has broken the spirit of the marital vows by making something more important to him than her.

    I also believe that as Jay said, the goal should always be restoration. As I look at my own life and my unfaithfulness to God I am amazed that He loves me with grace and mercy, far more than I deserve.

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  4. I completely agree with your first paragraph - I certainly don't want my husband to only be staying with me because he fears me.... That's not at all what I meant to say or imply. I'll try to explain better what I meant.
    In marriage, there needs to be boundaries that both spouses are aware of and agree to comply with. Certain things are just not acceptable in marriage, such as: keeping company with the opposite sex, staying out late at night drinking, lying or being deceitful, etc. And both spouses need to know that if one of these boundaries is crossed, there will be consequences. However, hopefully both spouses are complying with these boundaries because they love and respect the other, not because they fear the consequences. But regardless, if the boundary is crossed, there needs to be consequences or that type of behavior will continue. Even though I'd like to believe that all men and women in marriages do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do, I know that's not true. If a gorgeous unmarried woman is flirting with a married man, that man has a choice: does he give in to temptation or does he push her away? There are two thoughts that could enter his mind at that time... he loves his wife so he won't give in or he doesn't want his marriage to end in divorce so he won't give in. Much as this man may love his wife, at that point the consequences (his marriage will end) is probably going to be more of a deterrent than his love for his wife. I'm not saying this is always true in every case, but it is true that consequences are usually the bigger deterrent, especially if it's "in the heat of the moment". When I was little, I usually obeyed my parents because I didn't want to be punished, not because I just wanted to do the right thing. And I don't think just doing the right thing because you fear the consequences is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, knowing there will be consequences is the only thing keeping a person from doing the wrong thing.
    In many marriages today (both Christian and pagan, sadly), there is little love and respect. I would rather those people still do the right thing just because they don't want the consequences than do the wrong thing and not care.
    I also agree that unfaithfulness is not the unforgivable sin. And yes, in a lot of cases, it does take more strength to stick with the other person than it would to just divorce them. However, with the wives that I was referring to, a lot of them ended up divorcing the guy later anyway. So instead of kicking the guy out of the house and telling him to grow up, they let him stay, without consequences (at least, none that we know of), and ended up divorcing him later anyway. For a lot of husbands and wives, when they're unwilling to impose consequences on unacceptable behavior, it spells doom for their marriage.

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